Before launching headlong into a most dangerous territory (namely, how the patriarchy’s misunderstanding of the nature of woman’s sexuality set the stage for her oppression), I will first offer a depiction of the well from which I spring. I am the firstborn son of the firstborn daughter of the firstborn daughter of a matriarch. My great grandmother gave birth to eleven children: three daughters (including her eldest child, who was born in 1914; and her youngest, born in 1933) and eight sons (two of whom died in infancy). She never remarried following the death of husband in 1935. During the period in which she raised her family, there was a great deal of tumult and change — as she managed through World War I, The Great Depression, World War II, and beyond. Still, she was able to instill a thirst for excellence in all her children. The majority of them grew up to become highly regarded individuals in their respective fields and endeavors.
During my first two years of high school, I lived with her and my godmother/aunt (her youngest daughter). Their quite sizable house was located directly across the street from my parents’ apartment. With my being four years older than my brother (and five years older than my sister), I had grown to the point where it was no longer advisable for me to continue to share a bedroom with my brother and my sister. At my great grandmother’s house, I had my own room!
While filling the role of the “resident male,” and handling all the chores expected of a young man, I was also afforded a glimpse beneath my great grandmother’s rather stern exterior; and to this day, I remember her as an incredibly loving and disciplined soul.
At her funeral, in 1982, I found it remarkable that a woman who had given birth to eleven children (and thus, she was no stranger to sex) would be reposed and buried dressed in a nun’s habit. Later, I discovered that she was a member of the Third Order of the Oblate Sisters of Providence; and her burial in the habit was done out of recognition of her piousness and devotion. Indeed, I was blessed to have known her. It was she and those who proceeded through her who provided me with an abiding respect for the goodness and the potentials of femininity.
The foregoing is offered as a peek into my own perspectives, which somewhat counter-balance a negative patriarchal conditioning that spans thousands of years. I now seek to guide the reader through the “woman as bitch” narrative – which simultaneously undergirds and undermines our current reality.
From the Beginning
The modern English word used to allude to the essential character of things (i.e., nature) actually derives from the Latin natura, which means “conditions of birth.”  Clearly, there is the suggestion that a feminine urge is associated with the creation of the material world itself. With the term “Mother Nature” representing a common personification of the ways and character of things outside of human influence (at least, here on Earth), the situation immediately begins to get a bit dicey. Phrases such as “Don’t mess with Mother Nature,” “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature,” etc., give voice to man’s feeling of uncomfortable subjectivity to the unpredictable and often unseen forces that move through our material world.
The callous and violent character of a mother who has outright disdain for her children is suggested when our Mother Nature visits upon us events such as storms, earthquakes, and even volcanic eruptions.
Then there is the lunar orb, which shines forever beyond our grasp in the nighttime skies. With the night itself being a powerful feminine metaphor for man’s fear of the unknown, the moon illumines and exerts its influence upon the tides (which have their analog in the human emotions). The male’s fear of the ultimate unknown, death, is subtly invoked upon his witness of the menstrual blood that flows from females, in accordance with the lunar cycle.
Among various feminine archetypes developed by Carl Jung (founder of the school of analytical psychology), of particular interest is that of the forest, and its juxtaposition against the garden archetype. Where the garden is seen as a metaphor for the consciousness (because there, “Nature is subdued, ordered, selected and enclosed”), the forest symbolizes the unconscious (owing to its wildness). Later writers expanded upon Jung’s symbolism to suggest the more patently sexual metaphor of the garden as “the body of a woman in a passive condition, waiting to be enjoyed,“ while man’s fear of being swallowed up by “unruly sexuality” finds its expression in the forest archetype.
There are two separate accounts of the creation of woman in the Old Testament. We’ve already examined the second of those, during our discussion of Adam & Eve. However, in Genesis 1:26-27 NASB, we read:
26. Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27. God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
This initial account is quite inconsistent with that of the creation of Eve; for here, it is suggested that woman was created at the same time as Adam — as a direct complement to him — rather than woman being fashioned as an afterthought and an adjunct to man. As a method of providing learned commentary aimed at resolving logical inconsistencies in the sacred texts, the Jewish literary tradition called midrash arose (and reached its zenith in the second century CE). The presage of Lilith as the first wife of Adam was introduced in midrashic commentary.
The mystical tradition of Jewish Kabbalah, which arose in the thirteenth century CE, added yet another layer of interpretation to the midrashic commentary. In the Kabbalistic text Sefer ha-Zohar (The Book of Splendour), Moses de Leon (c. 1240-1305) writes:
At the same time Jehovah created Adam, he created a woman, Lilith, who like Adam was taken from the earth. She was given to Adam as his wife. But there was a dispute between them about a matter that when it came before the judges had to be discussed behind closed doors. She spoke the unspeakable name of Jehovah and vanished.
Already by that period, the warning to man regarding the nature of woman was “If woman will not listen even to God, what makes you (man) think that she will listen to you?”
In later Kabbalistic writings, Lilith became associated with the demonic presence that was responsible for the sudden death of infants and with miscarriages suffered by pregnant women. Lilith was also the personification of unrestrained lust, and in medieval Christian lore, she became associated with the succubus (who had sex with men and drained them of their semen as they slept).
With respect to Bitch credentials, Lilith was by no means lacking.
Sisters Always: Isis and Nephthys
Although the mythology of the ancient Egyptians provides us with a somewhat more balanced picture of the potentials of the feminine nature, it is a complex one, indeed. During the pre-dynastic period, Hathor (often represented in the form of a cow) was one of the most important goddesses. As a chief symbol of fertility, she was also revered as Goddess of the sky, love, beauty, joy, motherhood, and music. When Hathor is depicted in human form, she wears a headdress that suggests the idea of the sun itself being carried by (and/or contained within) her.
By the time of the first written references to Isis, in the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt (2494 to 2345 BC), the presentation of the feminine nature in the role of deity had become decidedly more complex; as her sister Nephthys also appears. Considering Nephthys’ association with death and Isis’ association with birth (and rebirth), throughout the various tales of seduction and deception in which they are involved, it’s clear that the ancient Egyptians were attempting to reconcile the behaviors of their goddesses with mortal man’s experiences with his woman.
Later still, the Greek historian Plutarch’s first century CE account of the Isis-Osiris story reflects one of man’s deepest (yet most vague) fears: that of the mother’s use of her influence upon her son as a means of usurping the power and authority of her mate. However, this allegory is veiled in the Isis-Osiris tale, as the son Horus is not conceived until well after his father Osiris’ death and dismemberment. A beneficent countenance is conferred upon Isis, owing to her magical revivification of Osiris (who was also Isis’ brother); nevertheless, it was only for the purpose of her impregnation. Interestingly, when she learns that she will not have access to her dead husband’s fleshly penis (which had since been eaten by a fish), she fashions a gold phallus and attaches it to his reconstituted body by means of magic. Horus is conceived through the ensuing intercourse of Isis and Osiris (who thereafter dies his final death). Although her child, Horus, grows up to become Pharoah, the allusion is ever that Isis is the true power behind the throne.
In the opening statement of an article about balancing the challenges of parenthood against the challenges of maintaining a healthy relationship with one’s mate, modern author Pamela Stock writes:
Shortly after my son was born, I became obsessed with a question that had nothing to do with babies: Why was my husband so annoying? Here was the person I loved, with whom I had just pulled off the miracle of creating a life and…I wanted to kill him.
There is no denying the fact that the bond between a mother and her child is important — and it’s perhaps even more so when the child is a male. When the intimacy of a mother-son relationship is healthy in character, the son will grow to be strong in character. However, when there is dysfunction in the intimacy of the mother-son relationship, the character-development of the son is profoundly threatened. Such dysfunctional dynamics range from the mother’s hatred and estrangement of the child, to the Mama’s boy syndrome (in which the son is too closely protected by the mother), to the Oedipus Complex (in which the son lusts after his mother), to Mother-Son incest instigated by the mother (the ultimate taboo). In the latter case, the taboo is particularly threatening to the patriarchy at-large, primarily because the male child becomes a disempowered object of (and slave to) his mother’s lusts.
A Bit Farther East
The use of practical sexuality as a means of spiritual exercise is an immediately evident feature that distinguishes the religions that arose in the Far East from those that provided the basis for the Western worldview. While the approach toward sexuality in the West is one of allusion and indirectness (with regard to the sexual nature of a given issue), the approach in the East is decidedly more graphic and direct. Even though considerably more respect is paid to the power of the feminine force (and its expression in human nature) in the East, there nevertheless emerged a climate in which women found themselves persecuted and objectified — with that same (sexual) power ostensibly serving as the justification for their oppression.
Two traditions with which I am immediately familiar are The Kama Sutra (which derives from Indian Hindu ism) and the Taoist sexual practices.
Written by Mallanaga Vatsyayana in the second century CE, the book was made available to Western readers through Sir Richard Burton’s publication of an English translation in 1883. Burton’s translation remains the most widely accepted version of this Hindu classic. Although later versions of the work focus primarily on depictions of the myriad sexual positions described therein, the original purpose of the book was to serve as a practical guide for how one might live a virtuous life. A peculiar emphasis is placed upon the manner in which the natures of male and female differ.
Throughout the treatise, much advice is offered about the types of women who may be enjoyed, the methods of enjoying them, and the reasons for enjoying them. It’s not until near the end of the book (Part VI, Chapter II ) that the author offers a rather telling statement, revealing his view of the nature of woman:
There are also two verses on the subject as follows:
“The extent of the love of women is not known, even to those who are the objects of their affection, on account of its subtlety, and on account of the avarice, and natural intelligence of womankind.”
“Women are hardly ever known in their true light, though they may love men, or become indifferent towards them, may give them delight, or abandon them, or may extract from them all the wealth that they may possess.”
Although the chapter concerns itself primarily with the proper conduct of courtesans, the quote above contains the only instance of the term “womankind” (here understood to mean “of the unqualified and essential nature of woman”) to be found anywhere in the broader text. When the trait of avarice is attributed to womankind, the only understanding one could arrive upon is that woman is “extremely greedy by nature!” Although I don’t disagree with this assessment, I’m not in agreement with the use of the understanding of this aspect of the feminine force as the basis for the imposition of oppressive regimes that seek to place women at disadvantage, with respect to men. If avarice is indeed essential to the nature of woman, no amount of external pressure will remove it from her — and leave her whole.
In the first chapter (entitled “Kinds Of Sexual Union According To Dimensions, Force Of Desire Or Passion, Time”) of the book, we read:
Auddalika says, “Females do not emit as males do. The males simply remove their desire, while the females, from their consciousness of desire, feel a certain kind of pleasure, which gives them satisfaction, but it is impossible for them to tell you what kind of pleasure they feel. The fact from which this becomes evident is, that males, when engaged in coition, cease of themselves after emission, and are satisfied, but it is not so with females.”
This opinion is however objected to on the grounds that, if a male be a long-timed, the female loves him the more, but if he be short-timed, she is dissatisfied with him. And this circumstance, some say, would prove that the female emits also.
But this opinion does not hold good, for if it takes a long time to allay a woman’s desire, and during this time she is enjoying great pleasure, it is quite natural then that she should wish for its continuation. And on this subject there is a verse as follows:
“By union with men the lust, desire, or passion of women is satisfied, and the pleasure derived from the consciousness of it is called their satisfaction.”
As the Kama Sutra begins with a picture of woman’s high potential for sexual insatiability and it draws near its conclusion advancing the idea of avarice being the very essence of woman, one sees a familiar picture begin to emerge: man’s inherent fear of woman’s constitutional sexual superiority. Despite the Kama Sutra advocating certain morals and behaviors that are directly opposed to traditional Hindu values, it is nonetheless a powerful influence on the social climate in India. Perhaps a coupling of man’s unspoken fear with the relative amorality of this most revered text is the driving force behind modern India’s exceptionally high rate of crimes against women.
Of Fire and Water
Yang and Yin, fire and water, creative and receptive, day and night, hard and soft, positive and negative; the Taoist view of the world considers the existence of all things to be the result of the perpetual dance of the masculine and feminine principles. As even the fullest Yin contains a germ of Yang, so too does the fullest Yang contain a germ of Yin. Thus, the Taoist perspective is concerned primarily with ascertaining the best ways to negotiate change. While death clearly represents the complete cessation of change for a human, much of the Taoist literature and practice is particularly concerned with methods of increasing one’s longevity — whether on the battlefield or in the bedchamber.
Taoist philosophy emerged in ancient China during the Warring States (fourth to third centuries BC) period, prior to the actual unification of China. Owing to the prevailing social climate of the times, much of Taoist thought was concerned with the disciplines necessary to wage successful war. In his biography of Sun Tzu (the mythical general responsible for a redefinition of the methods of warfare), the Chinese historian Ssu-ma Ch`ien writes:
Sun Tzu Wu was a native of the Ch`i State. His Art of War brought him to the notice of Ho Lu, King of Wu. Ho Lu said to him: “I have carefully perused your thirteen chapters. May I submit your theory of managing soldiers to a slight test?” Sun Tzu replied: “You may.” Ho Lu asked: “May the test be applied to women?” The answer was again in the affirmative, so arrangements were made to bring 180 ladies out of the Palace. Sun Tzu divided them into two companies, and placed one of the King’s favorite concubines at the head of each. He then bade them all take spears in their hands, and addressed them thus: “I presume you know the difference between front and back, right hand and left hand?” The girls replied: “Yes.” Sun Tzu went on: “When I say ‘Eyes front,’ you must look straight ahead. When I say ‘Left turn,’ you must face towards your left hand. When I say ‘Right turn,’ you must face towards your right hand. When I say ‘About turn,’ you must face right round towards your back.” Again the girls assented. The words of command having been thus explained, he set up the halberds and battle-axes in order to begin the drill. Then, to the sound of drums, he gave the order “Right turn.” But the girls only burst out laughing. Sun Tzu said: “If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame.” So he started drilling them again, and this time gave the order “Left turn,” whereupon the girls once more burst into fits of laughter. Sun Tzu: “If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the general is to blame. But if his orders ARE clear, and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers.” So saying, he ordered the leaders of the two companies to be beheaded.
The challenge to Sun Tzu was clear, for who could be less amenable to the commands of an unknown man than those women who enjoyed the luxury of the king’s favor? Who but a woman could be so reluctant to accept the simplest discipline? Ssu-ma Ch`ien continues:
Now the king of Wu was watching the scene from the top of a raised pavilion; and when he saw that his favorite concubines were about to be executed, he was greatly alarmed and hurriedly sent down the following message: “We are now quite satisfied as to our general’s ability to handle troops. If We are bereft of these two concubines, our meat and drink will lose their savor. It is our wish that they shall not be beheaded.” Sun Tzu replied: “Having once received His Majesty’s commission to be the general of his forces, there are certain commands of His Majesty which, acting in that capacity, I am unable to accept.” Accordingly, he had the two leaders beheaded, and straightway installed the pair next in order as leaders in their place. When this had been done, the drum was sounded for the drill once more; and the girls went through all the evolutions, turning to the right or to the left, marching ahead or wheeling back, kneeling or standing, with perfect accuracy and precision, not venturing to utter a sound. Then Sun Tzu sent a messenger to the King saying: “Your soldiers, Sire, are now properly drilled and disciplined, and ready for your majesty’s inspection. They can be put to any use that their sovereign may desire; bid them go through fire and water, and they will not disobey.” But the King replied: “Let our general cease drilling and return to camp. As for us, We have no wish to come down and inspect the troops.” Thereupon Sun Tzu said: “The King is only fond of words, and cannot translate them into deeds.” After that, Ho Lu saw that Sun Tzu was one who knew how to handle an army, and finally appointed him general. In the west, he defeated the Ch`u State and forced his way into Ying, the capital; to the north he put fear into the States of Ch`i and Chin, and spread his fame abroad amongst the feudal princes. And Sun Tzu shared in the might of the King.
Unfortunately, the other message that rings loudly and clearly from the above text is the view that woman will not assent to that which is reasonable, unless there is also the credible threat of the most severe consequences.
The Taoists were not only masters of martial arts and military theory, but they also developed the art of sexology in a manner that recognized woman’s constitutional sexual superiority to the male. However, owing to that same constitutional inequality between male and female, intercourse was viewed as a true battle of the sexes; and the male’s droplets of semen served as the spoils of war, to be claimed by the victor. Accordingly, emphasis was placed upon the avoidance of ejaculation by the male.
Viewing woman as unruly, unreasonable, and being in possession of advantage on the battlefield (with respect to the sexual exchange), ancient Taoist’s methods tended to neglect exercises that served to further develop females’ sexual abilities. In an article on Tantric and Taoist practices, modern author Marilyn Mitchell, M.D. writes:
In researching Taoism, there is mostly information available on practices for males to use to energetically conserve their jing (life force) by learning to redirect the energy of orgasm throughout the body without ejaculating. The ancient texts gave much more instruction to men, and considered women to be merely a vessel or cauldron. While the place of women has changed over the years, less information is available for women to learn to redirect sexual energy.
It seems that no matter what language they spoke, the ancients had arrived at a consensus as to the nature of woman. And unfortunately, we moderns have not moved much further in our understanding of how wrong the ancients might have been, on so many counts.
The fathers have eaten sour grapes…
It might be apparent from my selection of the preceding examples that I did not escape the influence of my forefathers with respect to their conclusions about the dark side of woman. In most cases, I’ve found the wisdom of the ancients to be spot on, as I bear witness to many of the machinations of the modern woman. However, I have come to disagree with their conclusions as to the attitude one should adopt in the face of the challenges posed by woman — particularly those that are rooted in the volatility of emotion.
In an oft-quoted verse that suggests the requirement for one to break with those traditions that are found to be in error, Jeremiah 31:28-30 NASB states:
28. “As I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to overthrow, to destroy and to bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the LORD.
29. “In those days they will not say again,
The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
And the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
30. “But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge.”
Women are frequently portrayed as being evil in nature because of their apparent disregard for the larger set of complexities that might attend any given moment. As they are driven by an emotional engine that changes gear without warning, it often appears to men that self-interest is their only concern. The world of ancient man was filled with mysteries; his woman turned out to be the most challenging of them all. Attributing a feminine personification to the host of mysteries that were beyond his grasp, perhaps ancient man thought that if he could control his woman, he could control the universe. To this very day, we all pay a high price for this mistaken assumption.
Actually, the keys to the command of the universe lie not in man’s control of his woman, but rather, in man’s command of himself.
Perhaps there’s nothing at all wrong with woman’s being driven by (and seemingly enjoying) the volatile thrusts of her emotions. Maybe that’s the smallest price man can pay for the benefit of being granted a complement who ever seeks to be filled, at his instigation. What might happen if modern man learned to not feed into the chain reaction that develops when he responds negatively (and often oppressively) to woman’s natural emotional whirlwind? In the next chapter, we will more closely examine the dark side of man, and its role in the creation of the many negative characterizations of women.
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1. the female head of a family or tribal line.
2. a woman who is the founder or dominant member of a community or group.
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Word Origin & History
c.1300, “essential qualities, innate disposition,” also “creative power in the material world,” from O.Fr. nature, from L. natura “course of things, natural character, the universe,” lit. “birth,” from natus “born,” pp. of nasci “to be born,” from PIE *gene- “to give birth, beget” (see
genus). Original sense is in human nature. Meaning “inherent, dominating power or impulse” of a person or thing is from c.1386. Contrasted with art since 1704. Nature and nurture have been contrasted since 1874.
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